France: La Courneuve Flash stamp their mark on DI Elite as they shut out reigning champs

The La Courneuve Flash opened up France’s DI Elite Championship with a 35-0 statement win this weekend over the reigning champions, Thonon Les Bains Black Panthers.

Despite a two-year hiatus, the Black Panthers came into this season as league favorites. However, this past weekend’s performance showed a team that has suffered from the effects of the 24-month absence from football. Thonon had problems moving the ball and struggled to match up to the physicality of the Flash.

However, this weekend’s score lines in France with other games that were lopsided, may simply be a reflection of the most pressing matter facing each team; how well did they cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Football in Europe still remains, for the most part, an “amateur” affair. So, for teams that can bring in a steady stream of young talent and develop them with good coaches, it doesn’t matter what players they lose. They will always be in the race.

The Flash are situated in La Courneuve, a municipality in Paris. The Paris region has a population of over 12 million and a diversity in sport, culture and finance, making it a prime location for a football team looking to recruit young hungry athletes.

Flash RB Jason Bofunda #33 finds running room Photo: Anna Shnaider

This is one of the reasons that the Flash have remained dominant for so many years in Europe. Despite Americans coming and going, they have had a consistent stream of talent coming in, keeping not only the raw athleticism of the players high, but also the levels of competition.

Teams like the Black Panthers have done well in the past because they had the right imports, coaches and domestic players at the right time – unable to rely on recruiting in a city of only 30,000. The departure of a star quarterback like Clark Evans and the impact of the pandemic both in terms of finances and player retirements, can wreck a team.

As the French league bounces back into full swing, teams and score lines will undoubtedly change. But the league may ultimately be decided this year by attrition. Which teams managed not only to keep their domestic talent, but also grow during the off-season?

At the moment, the Flash seems to be winning that battle. Their young, hungry, hard-hitting defense was proof of that this weekend.

Photos: Anna Shnaider


Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.